Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley is most famous for winning the white wine category of the Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976. The Judgment of Paris was a blind tasting organized by Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, in which classic French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy were competitively tasted next to wines being made in little-known Napa Valley, California. To everyone’s surprise, the Napa wines took home first place in two categories. Chateau Montelena won the white wine category with their 1973 Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap won the red wine category with their 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon. Check out the movie, Bottle Shock, which tells the story of this tasting and shows how Napa got put on the map.

And now, for a tasting of two Chateau Montelena wines

Chateau Montelena 2015 Calistoga Zinfandel 14.5% ABV $39

This wine is from Calistoga, which is one of the warmest sub-regions in Napa and also the northernmost. Those who were here remember 2015 as the driest year on California record. This coupled with warm weather produces dense and ripe fruit.

Tasting Notes: This wine has stewed black fruit on the nose (perhaps blackberry jam) and dark chocolate/cocoa. On the palate I get the same stewed black fruit (including bramble), plus a slight raisined note, as well as cedar/toast, vanilla, and sweet baking spices (cinnamon and clove). This wine is big, juicy and in yo’ face. BUT it is very well-balanced. I love this wine. This is everything I want a California Zinfandel to be.

Chateau Montelena 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 14.1% ABV $58

According to the tech sheet, this wine shows Napa Valley greatness without the wait, as it is intended to drink now. The 2013 vintage had a dry and mild Spring, which stresses the vines early on. Summer brought lots of sunlight plus wide diurnal shifts (difference in temperatures between day and night) which helps the grapes retain acidity.

Tasting Notes: On the nose I get predominantly black fruit (blackberry), but also a bit of red fruit (plum) plus vanilla. There is an ever so slight pyrazine (green) note that gives away the fact that we are drinking Cabernet Sauvignon. On the palate I also get black and red fruit as well as strong tannins and acidity. This wine delivers classic Cab flavors and is ready for immediate consumption. 2015 is the current release. The 2015 retails at $61.